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Raven Mystic Part 3

On the day after Madge the beautiful Cummings Lane gal raven turned down his marriage proposal, Obidiah the raven mystic decided to seek out his two non-raven bird friends, a gull named Marcus and a Red-tailed hawk named Harold, to get their opinions about how he might proceed with his life. In Obidiah’s experience, other species’ viewpoints were often helpful in resolving seemingly intractable raven dilemmas.

*

Harold the hawk oversaw a couple square miles of fields and orchards and wooded land between Cummings Lane and the coast. Harold and his mate Rose had a big nest at the top of a half-dead bull pine on the edge of a wooded ravine carved by a seasonal creek.

Obidiah and Harold became friends two years ago when Harold and Rose were establishing their territory and the local ravens would daily mob the hawks and chase them all over hell and gone. The ravens did this because the hawk couple who previously presided over Harold and Rose’s territory were notorious raven nest raiders, which Harold and Rose were not.

One day Obidiah happened to join a group of ravens mobbing Harold, and because Obidiah spoke fluent Hawk, he understood Harold when Harold cried plaintively, “Leave us alone. Please. We are not raven nest raiders. We are gopher, squirrel, snake, rabbit, vole hunters. We really don’t want to have to resort to killing some of you, but we will if you persist in mobbing us.”

So Obidiah brokered a peace between Harold and Rose and the Cummings Lane ravens, and thereafter Harold and Obidiah were friends.

Obidiah found Harold perched on a power line overlooking Harold and Rose’s Rodent Field 7, a level acre of land that the human owners left fallow, though this acre would have made an ideal apple orchard or vegetable farm.

Harold greeted Obidiah with his perpetual steely gaze, which Obidiah knew not to misconstrue.

“Obidiah,” said Harold, his voice fantastically high. “What brings you… excuse me.”

Harold then plummeted to the ground and snagged with his talons a big fat gopher he promptly tore to pieces with his beak.

“No matter how many times I see you do that,” said Obidiah, admiringly, “I’m amazed. Will you be taking that meat back to your nest?”

“No,” said Harold, devouring the shredded gopher flesh. “George and Naomi left the nest a couple months ago, and Rose is working Rodent Field 4 this morning. This is all mine. Want some?”

“Sure,” said Obidiah, alighting near Harold and waiting politely for the raptor to fling him a few bloody pieces.

When the gopher was no more, Harold and Obidiah flapped across the field and perched on another power line from where Harold could scan the field.

“As I started to ask,” said Harold, blinking at Obidiah, “before that delicious gopher emerged from his hole unawares… what brings you here today?”

“I’m seeking guidance,” said Obidiah, humbly. “I’ve found a marvelous roost in some fine unclaimed territory several miles north of here, but I don’t yet have a mate and I despair of any Cumming Lane raven gal wanting to settle so far afield. I’m not getting any younger and… well, I’m at a loss how to proceed.”

“Hawks, you know,” said Harold, his eyes fixed on the field, “do not live communally or even semi-communally, and we’re fortunate if we live half as long as your average raven. I got booted out of the nest and driven out of my parents’ territory when I was five-months-old and had to migrate to the far fringes of hawk civilization before I could stake my first claim on extremely marginal hunting grounds. For some months I survived on scrawny lizards and throat-tickling caterpillars and the occasional snake, but I persevered, met Rose, and together we claimed this paradise after the previous pair of hawks were electrocuted by a power surge. Then we had to fight off several other hawks who wanted this land, and then we had to survive months of mobbing by ravens until you came to the rescue. Since then things have been relatively marvelous. Which is all to say, if you were a hawk, you’d claim that territory you’re enamored of, get to know the lay of your land, and hope for good things to follow.”

“Even if one of the things to follow was a raven gal from another society?” asked Obidiah, his fear of Jack Peters Creek ravens inherited from hundreds of previous generations of Cummings Lane ravens.

“Heck yeah,” said Harold, seeming to glare at Obidiah, though he was merely being a hawk. “Love doesn’t care where we come from. Love only cares who we are and if we have that ineffable je ne sais quoi.”

*

Inspired by Harold’s thought-provoking ideas about love, Obidiah flew down to Big River Beach and found his gull pal Marcus standing on the outskirts of a sizeable congregation of other gulls gathered at the edge of a sand bar pecking in the wet sand for sand dabs.

A large gull, his feathers extra white from a recent bath in the river, Marcus was one of the few local gulls who enjoyed the company of ravens. Gulls and ravens compete for similar edibles and are frequently at odds, but Marcus was a most successful food getter and felt no threat from ravens. He was also a deep thinker and enjoyed discussing philosophical matters with Obidiah.

Marcus and Obidiah became acquainted when they were both young and learning how to forage for themselves. They kept bumping into each other while scoping out human picnickers at the beach, and on one such occasion Obidiah read the minds of the picnickers and learned they were going to leave their half-finished banquet unattended while they went for a walk. Being a generous sort, Obidiah shared this information with young Marcus, and when Obidiah and Marcus got away with an entire ham and cheese sandwich and a large bag of potato chips, which they shared, they became fast friends.

After a bit of chitchat about the weather and the fortuitous abundance of sand dabs, Obidiah described his marital territorial dilemma to Marcus.

“Regarding the far flung nesting option,” opined Marcus, “we would not be wrong in conflating that remote roost with the parable of the road less travelled. Ipso facto, this is a classic example of the artist’s dilemma.”

“Why do you say artist’s dilemma?” asked Obidiah, who didn’t consider himself an artist.

“By artist I mean an original thinker,” said Marcus, gazing at the horizon. “One who conceives of things and perceives reality in a wholly original way. A bird who finds little satisfaction in recapitulating the redundant patterns of the status quo. One who, and this is the key point, goes his or her own way in most matters. You may fail, Obidiah, but at least you will have tried and won’t regret not trying, if you will pardon my use of a double negative.”

“And what’s your take on marrying an outsider?” asked Obidiah, who enjoyed Marcus’s verbosity.

“Gulls are not ravens,” said Marcus, looking around at his numerous cohorts. “If you will excuse my stating the obvious. Every year we roam up and down the coast for hundreds of miles in either direction, gathering with our kind in great numbers hither and yon. Thus marrying outsiders is as common among gulls as not marrying outsiders. Keeps the gene pool jumping. Breaks the monotony of sameness.” He smiles. “I met my first wife Deb in Coos Bay. Talk about a tough gull. She relished barnacles and found icy weather tropical. When she choked on an enormous chicken bone and died, I mourned her for hours before marrying Conchita from La Paz. Ay caramba!”

“Okay then,” said Obidiah, feeling emboldened by the sum total of Harold and Marcus’s input. “One last question. The little beach where Jack Peters Creek meets the sea? Ever seen any ravens there?”

“Are humans omnivorous?” said Marcus, cackling. “The mouth of Jack Peters Creek is raven central. Especially at low tide.”

“Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to that little beach some upcoming low tide?” asked Obidiah, nodding hopefully. “I’d make it worth your while.”

“I’m sure you would,” said Marcus, grinning. “As it happens there’s a grandiloquent low tide on the morrow in the morning. I’ll talk some pals into coming with us so we can give you a little gull cover while you check out the Jack Peters Creek raven gals.”

“Thank you, Marcus,” said Obidiah, raising his wings to signify his gratitude. “I’ll meet you here tomorrow morning.”

“No problema mi amigo,” said Marcus, raising his wings in reply. “Tu mundo es mi mundo.”

Mystery Pastiche

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Critters

Ganesh's Bowl

Ganesh’s Bowl photo by Todd

Two years ago our big gray cat Django got hit by a car and died, and we were sad for a time and thought about getting a couple of kittens, but we didn’t. Then some months after Django died, I was having a cup of tea in the dining room and looked out the window and saw a gang of chickadees foraging in the ferns and flowers just fifteen feet away from me, and I realized that when Django was alive, those birds would never have foraged there.

Fast forward to a few mornings ago: I was sitting on the deck watching a mob of chickadees and finches and tits rampaging in the nearby shrubbery, when along came an alligator lizard, a beautiful being Django would have toyed with and killed. But instead of dying a terrible death, the lizard paused to look at me and show me his shiny new skin before he moved off into the ferns to hunt for insects.

The next day I saw a gorgeous garter snake slither through the vegetable patch, and I knew Django would have killed him, too.

Then yesterday I stepped out of my office to play guitar in the morning sun and our resident chipmunk scampered along the deck to have a drink of water from the white bowl in front of the statue of Ganesh, a bowl we keep filled with water for the many birds and critters who share this land with us. Having slaked his thirst, the chipmunk found a lovely old weed going to seed, and while I strummed and sang, the chipmunk dined—a most enjoyable tête-à-tête that never would have happened were Django still with us.

If we had a cat or a dog, the mother skunk and her adorable baby would not come to drink from Ganesh’s bowl as they do at dusk every day, and a dog would keep the deer away, too, the deer we love to watch from our office windows—fawns appearing with their mothers throughout the summer.

And though I’d like to have a cat and a dog, for now I will forego that pleasure because I so enjoy having all these wild critters close at hand.

I recently caught a glimpse of a fox trotting through the woods on his way to our orchard, and I was thrilled to see the splendid fellow. We named our place Fox Hollow after the mother fox and her kits who entertained us so grandly for the first two years we lived here.

We might have called our place Ravenswood for the many ravens who live hereabouts. I recently had a long conversation with a raven. He cawed three times; I cawed three times. He cawed twice; I cawed twice. He cawed four times; I cawed four times. Then there was a pause, so I cawed twice, and he cawed twice. Then I cawed four times, and he cawed four times. Then I cawed but once, and he cawed but once. I fell silent and he cawed three times, so I cawed three times. This might have gone on indefinitely, but I was getting hoarse, so I quit. I’m not sure what we were talking about, but we certainly agreed on how many times to caw, which I consider a great achievement in inter-species communication.

We are also situated directly below the flight path of a robust population of wild pigeons and a pair of regal Red-tailed hawks. And we have vultures and possums and a big silver gray squirrel and gophers and…

In Django’s absence our neighbor’s big tabby has commandeered the orchard at the far southwest corner of our property, the gophers of special interest to her. I dissuade her from coming any nearer to our house because I don’t want her assuming Django’s role visa-à-vis the chipmunk and lizards and snakes and birds and the big silver gray squirrel. However, a dent in the orchard gopher population would not be a bad thing.

Speaking of critters, here at the start of July, the local population of mosquitoes is exploding, so much so that working outside of late has been a continuous swat fest, but that should change as summer progresses and the ground becomes perilously dry. Meanwhile, the swallows and bats are thrilled with the abundance of the little biting buggers.

female trio

And then there are human critters, a fascinating species, especially the colorful and emotive females. The music festival is underway, so Abi and Marion, both British female human musicians, have joined Marcia, the resident American female human musician, in our little neck of the woods, and the three of them are great fun to observe and interact with.

Human females, for my taste, are much more interesting than human males, at least the human males abounding in America; but then I’ve always been keen on humans who share their feelings and laugh easily and like to talk about food and dreams and what they just realized about themselves and life and so forth. Then, too, I spent the first several years of my life enthralled with my two older sisters until they grew weary of me and became less enthralling. But by then my admiration for more than the physical potentialities of female humans was well established and continues to this day.

Maybe human males in other cultures are not as stiff and stoic and emotionally guarded and narrow-minded as most American male humans are. I don’t know. What I do know is that emotional openness and generosity and curiosity about other people has everything to do with nurture and not much to do with nature. I say this because I am fortunate to know a handful of American male humans who enjoy sharing their feelings and laugh easily and like to talk about food and dreams and what they just realized about themselves and life and so forth.

Unfortunately, most of these unusual male humans don’t live around here; but at least we know each other, so we do not feel as bereft as we might otherwise.

Ah, I see our chipmunk is ensconced in the big flowerpot on the deck and has some sort of snack in hand. Maybe he’d like to hear a song while he eats.